More than 37 million people in the United States do not have a bank account, which puts them in a difficult situation if they receive checks. The unbanked population has several options to cash checks, with varying fees associated with them.
The check will always have a bank name listed prominently on it, which is the financial institution handling the account for the payer. You can take the check to the nearest branch to get it cashed. Since you don’t have a prior relationship with the bank, you may be charged a fee for this service. The price you pay depends on the policies of that particular institution. For example, Capital One and Citibank cash checks for free, while Wells Fargo charges $7.50 and M&T Bank requires 2 percent of the check total. Look up the payment policies on the bank website, or call the customer support line to find information for a particular check issuer.
Grocery stores and department stores, such as Kroger and Walmart, provide check cashing services in-store. The average store handles this process through the customer service desk, although Walmart also supports check cashing at the register. You may encounter limitations on the type of checks accepted, as many stores only allow payroll and government-issued checks. Fees range from a few dollars to a set percentage of the amount.
Prepaid Debit Cards
Some companies and banks are experimenting with services that load checks directly onto prepaid debit cards through mobile applications. You benefit from the convenience factor with this method, as you simply take a picture of the check on your phone to deposit it on your card.
Payday Lending and Check Cashing Stores
Payday retailers offer check cashing as one of their primary services and often accept a wide range of checks including personal, retirement and insurance settlements. The fees at these storefronts are higher than your other options, and some businesses only provide their rate information in-store. You usually pay a percentage of the check amount plus a flat rate fee.
Check cashing without a bank account has some logistical difficulties, but these four methods give you the opportunity to access your money. Spend time researching the fees in your area so you minimize how much you lose in processing.